Inside TV+Movies with Daniel Fienberg

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 69

Dan and Alan talk 'Cougar Town,' 'Treme,' 'Cinema Verite' and nudity

<p>James Gandolfini and Diane Lane of 'Cinema Verite'</p>

James Gandolfini and Diane Lane of 'Cinema Verite'

Credit: HBO

The
Happy Monday, Boys & Girls.
 
In this week's installment of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, we talk about "Cougar Town," "Treme," HBO's "Cinema Verite" and... nudity!
 
Good times.
 
Here's the breakdown:
 
The return of "Cougar Town" -- 01:00 - 11:00
Listener Mail: Nudity -- 11:45 - 17:45
Listener Mail: The NY Times "Game of Thrones" review -- 17:50 - 26:05
Listener Mail: Industry info relating to opinions -- 26:25 - 30:30
HBO's "Talking Funny" -- 30:45 - 35:25
"Doctor Who" -- 35:25 - 39:00
HBO's "Cinema Verite" -- 39:10 - 48:20
HBO's "Treme" -- 48:30 - 01:01:20

As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. [Or you can always follow our RSS Feed.]

 
And here's the podcast...

 

TV Review: HBO's 'Game of Thrones'

Fans of George R.R. Martin's books should be pleased with this TV epic

<p>Sean Bean of 'Game of Thrones'</p>

Sean Bean of 'Game of Thrones'

Credit: HBO
On the Firewall & Iceberg podcast last week, Sepinwall broke with form and asked me to give the introductory synopsis for HBO's new epic drama "Game of Thrones." He figured that since I'd read a book-and-a-half (and counting) of George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" franchise, I might have more luck summarizing the fantasy-but-not-fantasy trappings.
 
I failed dismally. 
 
The next day, I was on a conference call with Martin himself and I asked him to take a shot at laying out the basics, figuring he must have pitched the premise enough times over the years to have a really simple, one-paragraph answer prepared.
 
He did not. He said something about it having been described as "fantasy for people who hate fantasy" and made his now-familiar claims about the story's root in The War of the Roses. He talked for at least five minutes and while I'm sure he improved upon my podcast stammering, he didn't give a response that I could work with.
 
The problem isn't that "Game of Thrones" is excessively complicated or that it's difficult to understand without a scorecard. I don't want to give any impression that "Game of Thrones" is an intimidating piece of work to slog through. What it is, however, is vast and uncompromising in scope. HBO has never been afraid to plop viewers down in the middle of heavily populated dramatic realms. Go back and watch the pilots for "The Wire" or "Deadwood" or "Boardwalk Empire" and count the number of characters you're immediately asked to keep track of. But "The Wire" was grounded in an American urban experience that was at least vaguely familiar, even if you weren't versed in the specifics of Baltimore's inner city. And "Deadwood" and "Boardwalk Empire" both relied on a scaffolding of actual history and geography, plus the inclusion of a number of famous historical characters. 
 
"Game of Thrones" dispatches viewers in a foreign land with a foreign geography and thousands of years of foreign history. It doesn't say "Understand everything this second or your're going to wind up in a corner muttering 'Starks and Tullys and Lanisters... oh my.'" What it requires, if you haven't read any of Martin's books, is that you have faith in series developers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, This isn't a "They know best" kind of faith, but rather a "They'll tell me what I need to know when I need to know it" faith. 
 
Through six episodes, I found that faith well-earned. Benioff and Weiss have taken Martin's hefy book and translated it with a fidelity that fans are likely to appreciate, while welcoming new audiences with a thematic core that won't seem so impenetrable. It's not just a story for fantasy fans. And although I can only speak for my own gender-informed viewing experience, there's no reason why this should be a story aimed only at men. 
 
"Game of Thrones" is a solidly told yarn that easily overcomes its few storytelling stumbles with exceptional production values and a deep and superior cast that far out-strips any reasonable expectations for this sort of saga.
 
Click through for more on "Game of Thrones"...
 

Movie Review: 'Scream 4'

Well, Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson improved on 'Scream 3' at least

<p>Neve Campbell of 'Scream 4'</p>

Neve Campbell of 'Scream 4'

Credit: Dimension

The second movie I reviewed for my college newspaper was Wes Craven's "Vampire in Brooklyn." I still have to apologize to the friends who accompanied me to that particular screening.

As horrible as "Vampire in Brooklyn" was -- it's one of those disasters you can't even justify as a guilty pleasure -- it set me up perfectly for a press screening of "Scream" the next year. At that moment, there was no buzz at all for "Scream." It was a little horror movie that appeared to star Drew Barrymore and one of the frequently crying actresses from "Party of Five." I had no expectations regarding the plot or the tone and nobody had begun to suggest that there were surprises or twists to be spoiled or kept secret. And after "Vampire in Brooklyn," I'd have been astounded if Craven still knew how to keep images in proper focus, much less cut together a scene of cinematic suspense.
 
"Scream" worked for me on every level and I spent a couple weeks preaching the gospel of what felt very much like a slasher movie that had been made specifically for me and my friends. When "Scream" premiered to only $6 million, I was disappointed, but the movie went on to follow a nearly unprecedented box office pattern on the way to $100 million.
 
The sequel wasn't quite as smart and funny, but I actually thought "Scream 2" was more consistently scary than the original.
 
Then "Scream 3" came along and sucked all of the joy out of the franchise, draining it of its life-blood like some sort of vampire in or from Brooklyn. 
 
It took more than a decade for anybody (and everybody, including Craven and writer Kevin Williamson) to get desperate enough to make a fourth "Scream" film and the resulting sequel, which opens on Friday (April 15) is better than "Scream 3," but I don't know if I'm prepared to call it a return-to-form for the franchise.
 
Click through for a full review...

The stars of 'Happy Endings' chat on the set of 'Community'

Elisha Cuthbert and company discuss their new ABC comedy

<p>Elisha Cuthbert of 'Happy Endings'</p>

Elisha Cuthbert of 'Happy Endings'

Credit: ABC
A TV set-visit shell game:
 
It was back in November that I found myself on the set of a network comedy that had already shot seven episodes, but which wouldn't air a single episode until April. While the series in question was shooting a scene on the New York City street of a Hollywood studio lot, which was dressed to vaguely resemble Chicago, its stars were being taken to chat with a small group of reporters on a stage decorated for a different TV series airing on a different network.
 
That's a little background for how I came to be sitting on the Paramount-based set of NBC's "Community" interviewing the stars of ABC's "Happy Endings" about a series they'd been shooting in a vacuum for months without a premiere date or time period in sight.
 
The uncertainty was clearly making some of the show's stars antsy, but for Eliza Coupe, filming piles of episodes without a guaranteed timetable was old hat.
 
"That's kinda my M.O.," Coupe said. "I was on an HBO show ["12 Miles of Bad Road"] that we shot six episodes and it was like, 'This is gonna be the greatest thing.' I was playing Lily Tomlin's daughter. The whole thing was amazing and then it was like, 'Yeah. We're not gonna do that.' And then 'Scrubs.' Ninth season. The U.K. really loves it."
 
At the time, all of the stars of "Happy Endings" agreed that their show would be a perfect match with "Modern Family" on ABC's Wednesday night, because who wouldn't say that their show would be a perfect match with the highest rated comedy on their respective network? 
 
And for one week -- but only one week -- the "Happy Endings" family will get their wish, as the comedy will premiere on Wednesday, April 13 with two episodes airing after a new installment of "Modern Family." Starting the following week, "Happy Endings" will shift to a Wednesday 10:30 p.m. slot after "Cougar Town," which may actually be a more compatible lead-in.
 
[For more on how the "Happy Endings" team described their new comedy, click through...]

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 68

Dan and Alan talk 'Game of Thrones,' 'Happy Endings,' 'Paul Reiser' and more

<p>Emilia Clarke of 'Game of Thrones'</p>

Emilia Clarke of 'Game of Thrones'

Credit: HBO

The
Happy Monday, Boys & Girls.
 
Lots of stuff to discuss in this week's installment of the Firewall & Iceberg Podcast.
 
Don't worry, we talk about HBO's "Game of Thrones" for a long time at the end of the podcast. But we also cover the return of "Law & Order: Los Angeles" (with some spoilers), the premieres of "Happy Endings" and "The Paul Reiser Show," the NBC premiere of the final season of "Friday Night Lights" plus the "Burn Notice" telefim "The Fall of Sam Axe."
 
It's a busy podcast and it's a minor miracle that Alan's voice somewhat stayed intact throughout.
 
Here's the breakdown:
"Law & Order: Los Angeles" -- 01:30 - 09:55
"Happy Endings" -- 10:00 - 18:05
"The Paul Reiser Show" -- 18:30 - 27:00
"Friday Night Lights" -- 27:00 - 31:30
"The Fall of Sam Axe" -- 31:35 - 38:00
"Game of Thrones" -- 38:00 - 58:45
 

As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. [Or you can always follow our RSS Feed.]

 
And here's the podcast...

 

HitFix Interview: A few minutes with George R.R. Martin at the 'Game of Thrones' food truck

The 'Song of Ice and Fire' author finally saw the HBO drama this week

<p>'Game of Thrones' author George R.R. Martin</p>

'Game of Thrones' author George R.R. Martin

Credit: HBO
Winter is coming to HBO on Sunday, April 17. 
 
But on Friday, April 8, dinner was coming to Venice Beach. [Or a tasty pre-dinner appetizer.]
 
After visiting locations in New York and Los Angeles, the "Game of Thrones" food truck made its final stop on Friday evening, delivering "a taste of Westeros" with a free tasting menu devised by "Top Chef" favorite Tom Colicchio.
 
Friday's menu offered the choice between suckling head cheese (accompanied by farro and dried fruits) and venison skewers (with baked apple, barley and cinnamon). Both featured options were accompanied by moist lemon cakes.  Many people in the long line stretching down Abbot Kinney selected first one entree and then circled back around for another stint in line to try the other. The head cheese came only in a thin sliver and while savory, it could have been any tasty terrine or luncheon meat. The venison, though, was tremendous and I could have made a meal of it, if I'd gone back through the line five or six more times. [Instead, I went across the street and whetted the rest of my appetite at one of the seemingly dozen Korean-Mexican fusion trucks that prowl LA's streets.]
 
Fans at the "Game of Thrones" truck were treated to a surprise guest, "A Song of Ice and Fire" author George R.R. Martin, who greeted every patron through the line as they neared the end of their journey. Some of the diners were clear fans. A guy in front of me told Martin that he'd previously met him at a book-signing in Dublin. Others had no clue who they were seeing, but they were at least appreciative of the camera crews surrounding Martin and the pilgrims coming up to be photographed with the author. 
 
As food quantities ran low and the gaggle diminished, I snagged a few minutes with Martin, who saw the first two episodes of "Game of Thrones" earlier this week.
 
Click through for the interview...

HitFix Interview: Sarita White talks 'Survivor: Redemption Island'

So did her alliance have any strategy? Did she?

<p>Sarita of 'Survivor: Redemption Island'</p>

Sarita of 'Survivor: Redemption Island'

Credit: CBS
In three of the past four weeks, my "Survivor" exit interviews have involved listening to members of the not-so-fiercesome Russell Alliance talk about how even though they were successfully eliminated by their Zapatera tribemates, the ruling group was playing a game without any strategy.
 
This week, the shoe was on the other foot, "Survivor"-wise. The Zapatera Six had to turn on their own, voting out Sarita White in a bizarre after-the-fact attempt to protect tribal strength over loyalty, exactly in time for a Merge. And on Wednesday's (April 6) episode, Sarita lost a Redemption Island Duel against Matt, when the apparently unbeatable isolation champion  was able to spend a longer time perched between two walls.
 
So did her alliance have a strategy? Could she somehow have won? And why does everybody keep talking about Dave's occupation as if being a lawyer were the nastiest job a person could have?
 
These answers and more, after the break...
 

Watch: 'V' showrunner Scott Rosenbaum talks finale shockers, renewal hopes

Season two shocks, renewal possibilities and more with the writer-producer

<p>'V' showrunner Scott Rosenbaum</p>

'V' showrunner Scott Rosenbaum

Regular readers know that I've been up and down on "V" over its two seasons, but a big part of why I've stuck with the show has been Scott Rosenbaum.
 
Rosenbaum came onto "V" late in the game, taking over as showrunner after the pilot and several episodes had already been produced. Before coming to "V," IMDB lists Rosenbaum's credits as "The Shield" and "Chuck." Note that I didn't write, "Rosenbaum's credits *included* 'The Shield' and 'Chuck.'" Nope. Rosenbaum produced on both shows and wrote some of their finest episodes. And those are his series credits. That's a pretty pure and admirable resume, right?
 
With "V" on the bubble at ABC, Rosenbaum joined star star Elizabeth Mitchell and guest star (and original series star) Marc Singer at San Francisco's WonderCon last weekend. In the press room afterwards, I had a long chat with Rosenbaum about the second season's shocking finale, about the contingencies around possible renewal and about whether or not I should feel guilty that I'm rooting for Morena Baccarin's Anna.
 
This is actually a really, really long interview, but I'm glad HitFix's videographer/editor/mastermind Alex Dorn left it intact, because I think that for fans of "V," this will be interesting stuff. 
 

HitFix Interview: Bret Harrison talks FOX's 'Breaking In'

Is his new role and extension of 'The Loop' and 'Reaper'?

<p>Bret Harrison of 'Breaking In'</p>

Bret Harrison of 'Breaking In'

Credit: FOX
I'm interviewing Bret Harrison on a "Breaking In" set decorated to resemble San Diego's Comic-Con. All around us are people dressed as the usual Sailor Moons, "Star Wars" characters and, for a very specific reason, familiar faces from "The Goonies." 
 
Harrison's costume isn't very elaborate. His character -- brilliant hacker, occasional slacker Cameron, recruited to Contra Security by Christian Slater's Oz -- is dressed as a janitor, but other than the mustache, he looks a lot like Bret Harrison. The mustache, however, is distracting, perhaps because Harrison has maintained the same boyish appearance dating back to his long run on "Grounded For Life."
 
Sans mustache, he won fans playing a pair of Sams on the relatively short-lived, but relatively adored "The Loop" and "Reaper." And once Harrison stopped fiddling with the mustache, we discussed what drew him to "Breaking In" and its similarities to those previous cult favorites.
 
Click through for the full interview...

HitFix Interview: Christian Slater talks FOX's 'Breaking In'

Why is the 'Heathers' star trying a network comedy now?

<p>Christian Slater of 'Breaking In'</p>

Christian Slater of 'Breaking In'

Credit: FOX
It's early March and I'm chatting with Christian Slater next to the set for his new FOX comedy "Breaking In" on the Sony Pictures studio lot.
 
We're perched 20 yards away from the Contra Security game room, which hasn't been featured in either of the two episodes I've seen, but which features several fully operational video games, as well as a working Skee-Ball console. 
 
"We have a whole room full of prizes!" Slater gushes when I complain that Skee-Ball without prizes is almost sad. "There's a whole secret chamber full of stuff."
 
Slater's kidding, I think. But I'm not 100 percent sure, which is appropriate, since "Breaking In" features the "Heathers" star as Oz, the enigmatic, geeky and possibly unhinged head of a motley team of security testers brought in to make sure that even worse criminals can be kept out. The comedy co-stars Bret Harrison, Odette Annable, Alphonso McAuley and Trevor Moore and premieres after "American Idol" on Wednesday (April 6) night.
 
After we got our Skee-Ball discussion out of the way, Slater and I had a good chat about his recent string of TV roles, what it means that he's a producer on "Breaking In" and his new show's five-year plan.
 
Click through...

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